The agreement between the cult freeride French resort & company that will now run its lifts states the ski area should stay ‘wild’.


SATA will take responsibility for La Grave’s two-stage gondola from 15th June for a period of 30 years.

The contract makes clear that SATA is required to extend the gondola with a third stage up to the glacier,  replacing the existing drag lift.

Despite the obligation, it is conceivable that the third lift will never be built as there are a number of hurdles to overcome first.

The almost exclusively off-piste-experts-only ski area has been at the centre of a debate over its future, with locals and fans of the backcountry keen to keep La Grave untamed.

La Grave, France

La Grave – untamed
















Some fear that a third lift and other major planned investments will change the place for the worse and turn it into an ordinary resort.

There is some comfort for them in the detail of the contract, which says all investment must “maintain the sporty, wild, natural character of the ski area”.

The aim is to attract more visitors to La Grave.  The focus in winter will continue to be on good skiers, while there will be efforts to bring in more summer tourists – hikers, mountaineers, cyclists and sightseers to the glacier.

La Grave, France

La Grave

The hurdles SATA must leap before the third lift can be built are ensuring that technical and environmental studies are carried out, that they get all the necessary authorisation, and  –  crucially – that they secure €3.5 million of external funding to support the project.

It’s thought likely the company will apply for State or Regional funds.

SATA, which runs the lifts in nearby Alpe d’Huez, is required to build the third lift within two years of all those conditions being met.

If, however, they are not met by 31st January 2020, the council and SATA will meet to consider whether to postpone or abandon the project.

The main points

SATA must:

 ·  Improve and modernise the existing two-stage gondola
 ·  Undertake all the work needed and secure funding for a third gondola from 3200m to 3600m
 ·  Maintain the existing drag lift on the glacier and keep it operating until the third gondola is built
 ·  Renovate and improve the reception areas and the two restaurants at the top and mid station of the existing lift
 ·  Keep the current employees
 ·  Pay the council €100,000 at the start of the contract and an annual fee of €70,000, which includes the right to use the brand name La Grave La Meije and the domain name www.la-grave.com 

The contract also says that lift prices will not increase significantly for the time being.

La Grave SATA contract

Signed and sealed

Here at PlanetSKI we are huge fans of the resort – see here for a report by the PlanetSKI editor, James Cove, as he hit it on a powder day in 2016.

So, what does it all mean?

“It is as good an outcome as could have been expected given that there were genuine worries that the lift may have had to close or the unique character of the resort might change,” said James Cove.

“There is a firm commitment to improve the infrastructure that’s already there (lifts, restaurants etc) and also to  increase summer trade. However there is only a vague commitment about any third stage of the gondola. But most important in my judgement is the firm commitment to keep the main part of the ski area ‘wild’. Hurrah to that!” James added.

If you want to read the contract in full, and in French, it is available on the La Grave council website.

Read our earlier stories:

–  On the crowdfunding campaign set up to keep La Grave wild and untamed: La Grave Campaign Smashes Goal

 – After the crowdfunding campaign group was denied permission to bid to run the lift: What Now For La Grave?

 – As SATA was chosen to take over the lease on the lift: La Grave Saved     

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